Nick Cave and Mick Harvey discuss their career from the Birthday Party “crossover” of From Her To Eternity onwards...
THE BOATMAN’S CALL
A very different sort of Bad Seeds album, this pares the band arrangements down to nearly nothing, for a collection of austere, romantic, and occasionally religious songs.
Cave: “That sound was kind of an accident. We were mixing Murder Ballads, which at that time, I didn’t really have the patience to do. So I just went out to an adjacent studio, and started to play these songs, and was just taping to DAT – just as examples of stuff that I’d begun to work on. I took the stuff away, and it was really beautiful.”
Harvey: “It could almost not have been a band album. Because of the Murder Ballads album, there had been a lot of festival dates organised in Europe in the summer of ’96, so everyone was around anyway – everyone was hanging round with not much to do. It probably would have been better if he’d just called in a couple of people and not done it with the Bad Seeds. But the Bad Seeds, to their credit, understood what was happening and abstained from playing much.”
Cave: “I think if I didn’t have those original recordings, people wouldn’t have been able to say, ‘Fuck, it does sound really good,’ and I might have had more trouble trying to convince the band not to play their instruments. There were moments of dissent every now and then: Blixa stomping round going, “WHY AM I HERE?” That kind of thing. But he does beautiful stuff on the record, too.”
Harvey: “Nick was very much on top of it all: maybe it’s because it was such a personal work, he wanted to control what was happening with the music, to keep a control of the path he wanted it to be taking.”
Cave: “It was an important record for us. I guess I had those songs, and they inspired me to write songs along a similar line. That’s always the concern: what is the next record going to sound like? Lyrically, what’s it going to be about, and how is it going to be? So in a way I was given, by accident, the sound of The Boatman’s Call in those little recordings.”
Harvey: “In some ways it’s my least favourite Bad Seeds album. But in others it’s completely a Bad Seeds album, because it demonstrates the band’s awareness of what’s required of them – they don’t want to go stomping through the whole thing with army boots. It’s a totally different mindset.”